Game Rant's Matt Rowland reviews Law & Order: Legacies
Law & Order was one of the longest running crime shows on television. It spawned four spin-off series over the years and continues to steadily march along in cable syndication. Telltale Games promptly looked to cash in on the Law & Order: LA series last year, but when NBC canceled the show in May, Telltale reformatted the game version of Law & Order: LA and thus, Law & Order: Legacies was born.
Law & Order: Legacies makes use of familiar characters from the show itself, as well as motifs, plot devices, and of course, the iconic soundtrack. Those familiar with Telltale Games will instantly recognize the focus on conversation and character interaction - the publisher's strong suit. Does the Law & Order brand and Telltale's design style make for an exciting and rewarding game? Read on for the full review.
Unfortunately, it's a mixed bag for Law & Order: Legacies, which plays out less like a video game and more like an interactive story.
Legacies is designed very closely to how a typical Law & Order show would play out on television: a crime occurs, the police investigate the crime, question witnesses, identify suspects, and make an arrest. Just like in the show, about halfway through the focus changes to the judicial side, as the player now controls the district attorneys in the court room, questioning witness, defendants, etc, all in an attempt to sway the jury to one side or another. Mini cut-scenes are sprinkled in between the various character interactions, some of them critical, some of them ancillary.
These interactions are where players will spend the majority of their time, seeing how it is the only part of the game that allows for direct player intervention. For example, in Episode 1, the player will be asked to question a hotel maid who reported a dead body. After a few questions, the game will pause and ask the player if they believe the response from the maid. Based on what has already been stated, you have to use your own intuition to find out if the response is true, especially if there is no direct evidence. Correctly identifying the response will result in a "Correct" message, and typically, a followup will occur, asking the player that, yes, while the response was correct, why was it correct? Correctly identifying the reason will award players with "stars," which are only used to track your progress and offer no intrinsic value.
Additional dialogue options open as the conversation continues, and occasionally red herrings pop up (which are always prompted in the game). Especially during the police investigation parts, there is always the feeling of "there is definitely going to be a test on this later." Fortunately, all conversations are recorded in a transcript and can be easily accessed at any time by pausing the game.
The transcripts come in quite handy if you don't remember what has been said, or are unsure about what you might have already asked. This is especially critical during the judicial portion of the game and must question as well as cross-examine witnesses, suspects, and the accused. When the defense is questioning someone on the stand, it is the player's role to determine if the defense attorney is acting out of line by OBJECTING at a particular point. Telltale does a good job of helping players who are less than sophisticated in the judicial process in understanding what these terms are - and how to properly use them.
However, this is one of the game's many drawbacks. These encounters, like everything else in the Legacies, are completely scripted. Players are not given the option to OBJECT to a particular line unless the game itself pauses the action and asks if they want to object, and will then show a list of 3-4 possible objections. Use the wrong one and the jury will begin to lose faith in the prosecution's case. Get an entire section wrong, and the prosecution may end up completely dead in the water. However, it doesn't matter, because at the end of each section of game-play, players can simply replay the sequence (skipping all dialogue too) and pick the correct option(s) instead.
As a result, it's hard to ever feel a sense of urgency when playing this game. Many games allow for players to hit reload if something wrong, but the simple fact that the events are scripted and completely static takes much of the thrill out of the experience. Players just aren't likely to give a second thought to the consequences of their choices - leading to more of a guessing game than anything else. Playing through with varying degrees of success in conversations could result in different outcomes for the accused (like murder 1 vs. voluntary manslaughter) if sections are not replayed. These altered outcomes add some depth and weight to the player's actions - but not nearly enough.
Similarly, Law & Order: Legacies has virtually no replay value after the initial play-through, especially if players take their time and succeed in completing the episode entirely "right." It is not the same as watching a rerun of an episode on television - as some players will likely skip entire sections of dialogue just to get to the scripted conversation options. Would most people watch an episode of Law & Order on TV if they already knew the outcome and skipped entire sections of the show - watching only 4 minutes of a typical 45 minute episode? Not likely.
Performance wise, the game is solid - with very modest computer specs required. In terms of graphics, the in-game characters are a good representations of their television counterparts - but the voice acting, while above average (especially for a budget game), is not always synced correctly. The stories themselves are mostly cliched and predictable but still enjoyable the first run through - especially if you're a fan of the television series. Part of the problem is Legacies' stereotypical characters - which seldom surprise.
One of the better decisions made during the game's development, is the episodic release format - each episode costs $2.99 and is downloadable only. There are currently four playable episodes, with three more that have yet to be released. The cost itself might entice fans to check the game out - if for no other reason than to enjoy a story for 45 minutes (which the game succeeds at doing).
Overall, Law & Order: Legacies is a very average, scripted, budget game that offers itself more as an interactive story than a video game. However, despite its scripted nature and limited replayability, Legacies will probably be moderately enjoyable for fans of the Law & Order series or crime stories in general.
Law & Order: Legacies is available now for PC and mobile devices. Game Rant played the PC version for this review.
Follow me on Twitter @mattrowland1